20,000 Anti-War Protesters Plan DNC Camp Out at Denver City Park
By Alan Gathright, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Originally published 07:34 p.m., June 24, 2008
Updated 07:34 p.m., June 24, 2008
Neighbors are bracing for 20,000 anti-war protesters planning a five-day camp in City Park during the Democratic National Convention.
The city issued an assembly permit for Tent State University to bring the tribe of college kids from across the country for an "alternative university" Aug. 24-28 in the southwest corner of the park.
"Come to Denver to end a war!" declares the Web site for Tent State University, which describes itself as "a a positive, youth-led initiative to fund education instead of war."
Tent State will be a staging area "to experience real democracy" and DNC protests and it will be a campus for "classrooms" teaching nonviolent antiwar tactics and strategies, the Web site says.
But organizers have to iron out some big kinks before they can pitch the tent city just two months from now.
While city statement said the permit is for "approximately 20,000 participants," chief Tent State organizer Adam Jung said he dreams of luring up to 50,000 protesters if he locks up hot music acts ranging from political hip-hop to Southern honky tonk.
The hang-up: Overnight camping is illegal in the park.
That means each night, thousands of protesters could be forced to exit the park by 11 p.m., roaming the city for places to sleep. Jung says there's not enough nearby hotel rooms at prices college students can afford.
"It's not a camp out," said City Councilwoman Carla Madison, whose district includes the 314-acre park, home to Denver Zoo, a golf course, tennis courts, a lake with paddle boating, and popular music and arts festivals.
"The park closes at 11 p.m. and they have to be gone," she said.
"Now, don't ask me how it's really going to shake out," Madison added. "But that's the way it's going to be: that they can put their tents up, but they can't camp out in them."
Organizer Jung is hopeful that ongoing negotiations with city officials will allow the group to camp overnight at the park.
"We've met with the mayor and we've met with police officials and they're very reasonable people," said Jung, a 28-year-old, raised in a Missouri farm family who hopes to draw people from across the political spectrum to the tent city.
"I think the city is open to it. We've met with the mayor and we've met with police officials and they're very reasonable people," Jung said.
"Our main argument is, if people are allowed to camp, is that we retain control over the entire event," he said. "We're bringing in professional security, so we can direct the energy and we can keep it safe and ... a very positive event."
But, he added, "If we have to figure out a way to remove all of these people at 10 or 11 at night, it becomes very problematic."
"That's what happened in Chicago," Jung said, referring to the 1968 Democratic National Convention's notorious clashes between Vietnam War protesters and Chicago riot police.